Fourth-grade class victim of 'Zoom bombing'

Foxborough, MA - A local eighth-grade online classroom has become a victim of “Zoom bombing,” a recent phenomenon in which hackers disrupt meetings being conducted through the popular cloud-based video conferencing service.

Police are investigating but no suspects have been charged.

“It’s disrupting the entire learning experience for the teachers and the kids,” Deputy Police Chief Richard Noonan said Wednesday.

Zoom bombers gain unauthorized access to meetings to harass the participants, spread hateful messages or record pranks that will be later shown on social media.

The FBI issued a warning about the practice on Monday, the day of the Foxboro incident.

The agency said two school systems in Massachusetts have been victimized by Zoom bombings, though it did not identify them.

School Superintendent Amy Berdos declined to comment Wednesday other than an statement she sent to parents.

In the email, which her office forwarded to The Sun Chronicle, Berdos said the use of the Zoom app has been temporarily suspended.

With schools closed all over the country due to the coronavirus pandemic, educators have switched to teaching online, which has given hackers an opportunity to disrupt, the FBI said.

Berdos said an eighth-grade online class using Zoom was hacked by an uninvited person who was able to remotely join the group for a short time before the teacher shut down the session.

“The person transmitted news footage of the Christchurch Mosque shooting that took place in New Zealand last year and also posted a racist epithet and anti-Semitic language,” Berdos said.

“We are working with Zoom, the school district’s director of technology, teachers and the Foxboro police to ensure that this does not happen again,” Berdos said. “As always, the safety of our students is our first priority.”

In an interview with Boston’s Channel 7 news, Jack Austin, a local eighth-grader, said he was in one of the affected classes and that the hacking occurred two consecutive days.

“We were just there to learn and it wasn’t helping. Like the teacher was struggling with the material in class, so everyone just left,” Austin said in the interview.

“It was just very inappropriate in the class,” he added.

The FBI has received multiple reports of Zoom bombings nationwide and warns there could be more as people increasingly turn to teleconferencing during the coronavirus crisis.

The agency suggests using the privacy and screen sharing options on Zoom and not sharing the link to a teleconference or classroom on an unrestricted public social media post.

The FBI also says users should use the latest version of remote access applications.

Source: The Sun chronicle